Boats will fill the bay Monday on Lake Minnetonka for the first July 4th fireworks show in Excelsior in three years.
After canceling the show in 2020 and moving a scaled-back version to a different location last year, local organizers are bringing back a full day of Independence Day activities to the lakeside city for the first time since before the pandemic.
"We're kind of back in full swing," said Carolynne Telford, events manager at the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the festivities. "It's a tradition. People are very excited."
July 4th is back on across Minnesota, as communities resume some of the treasured traditions of the holiday after scaling back or canceling events the past two years because of COVID. From travelers hitting the road and skies to campers snatching up reservations at state parks, Minnesotans appear eager to celebrate what may be the most normal July 4th holiday in a while.
"People are just ready to get out and celebrate," said Patty Dronen of the Edina Community Foundation, which is hosting fireworks for the first time since 2019 and a July 4th parade, expected to draw about 20,000 people.
Edina residents started dropping off their lawn chairs Thursday to save spots on 50th Street for Monday's parade, earlier than normal perhaps in anticipation of larger crowds this year.
In St. Paul, the 75-year-old 4th In the Park celebration will go full throttle Monday in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood after a COVID hiatus in 2020 and a truncated parade last year. That means morning footraces, a full parade down Como Avenue, speeches by politicians, fifth-graders reading essays, a picnic and music, and a beer garden later on, said board member Marie Lister.
Lister said the events in Langford Park will be a welcome respite from what has been a tense stretch of politics and world events.
"There's a lot of feelings. I think it's a hard time for a lot of people in America right now," she said. "But I think there is so much value in holding space for communities to be together. We are just so excited to get back to some of the things that feel familiar and good."
Campsites across the state have quickly booked up, with only 7% of more than 4,500 still available as of Friday, according to the Department of Natural Resources. In Minneapolis, the most popular picnic shelters are booked through the weekend, though many neighborhood park sites have picnic areas available on a first-come, first-served basis.
While many suburbs plan fireworks displays, Minneapolis and St. Paul again nixed their traditional fireworks shows. In Minneapolis, officials said staffing shortages and construction at Father Hennepin Park led to cutting fireworks, but the Park and Recreation Board is hosting smaller, family-friendly events including balloon artists and lawn games.
After two years of canceled and scaled-back activities, Roseville's signature Rosefest celebration is roaring back with big crowds. The city has planned 20 events including a fun run, parade and tasting party, culminating with its July 4th party in Central Park.
Residents used blankets and lawn chairs Monday to stake out spots along the Rosefest parade route, hours before the parade. "It's the best parade attendance I've seen in my time here," said Roseville Parks Director Matthew Johnson. "The community has come out and has been so excited."
Roseville organizers were anticipating a robust turnout as well for July 4th events, including a children's carnival, live performances at Central Park's outdoor amphitheater, food and fireworks.
On Lake Minnetonka, the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber will pull a barge to the bay near downtown Excelsior and shoot fireworks Monday night. Pre-pandemic, the popular lake show typically drew 10,000 people on boats or land.
After canceling the show in 2020 — one of the few times in more than a century — and then nearly scuttling plans again in 2021 because of the lack of money for fireworks, the show is back on this year.
The return of community fireworks means less demand for personal displays. At Highway 35 Fireworks in Hudson, Wis., buyers looked through stacks of Atom Bombs, Black Mambas and other brightly colored fireworks packages costing about $50 to $150. Isaac Mark said the store's had a busy year, though not as busy in 2020 and 2021 when he said people were stuck at home.
Anders Nelson, owner of Fireworks Nation in Hudson, said sales are up from pre-pandemic times but have dipped from record numbers in 2020 and 2021. No matter where people view fireworks, he said, it always unites communities — and that's perhaps more important than ever.
"It's an opportunity for people to come together," he said. "It's such a tradition that people come back to."
Staff writers Susan Du and Matt McKinney contributed to this report.